The Arthritis Foundation met with me and James Cowan, CompletePT’s Director of Finance and Marketing, in the middle of July, 2012. They wanted us to join them in raising money for their programs through their largest fundraiser of the year – an 8-day, 525 bike ride down the California coastline. They always have a Medical Honoree and a Corporate Honoree for this event, but this year, they asked me to be their first-ever Rehab Honoree.
We joined in to help. James, an avid mountain biker, said he would ride the last day from Ventura to Santa Monica. He asked a friend to borrow his bike. When the friend wanted to know why, James sent him the link to the event, and before you know it there were two bicyclists on CompletePT team. They saw there was a 2-day option on the ride, so decided to sign up for that.
Then came the first gathering of cyclists a few weeks later and they caught the “coastal bug” from the other riders doing the whole event. James and Marc Karamanoogian were now doing the full 8 day ride! Here’s James’ remarkable journal from that event.
Day 1: Santa Cruz
An amazing day, about 90 miles. We left San Francisco at 8am, rode for close to 5 hours. The most unbelievable backdrop with perfect weather.
As we entered the camp, there were cheers and a rewarding horn (Polynesian Pu) being blown for each successful rider. The horn continued to welcome in our group for many hours. Oh! the comfort of knowing you’re not last!
Thanks to all of you for your support, that’s what makes it possible. Xxxx
Day 2: Monterey
Sleeping was so so, I now know that any incline is a bad idea, my sleeping bag kept slipping down the tent.
We woke to a very damp setting, tents soaked from the cold night air. We were dry, but packing up wet tent gear in 50 degree air is not ideal. Breakfast was a full buffet, 5 sausages, 10 strips of bacon and hash potatoes gave me the boost I needed. They even had homemade bread pudding!
We set off late as a few in our group had some bike issues. It was overcast, windy (headwind) and cold. Luckily it was a short 48 miler today. My toes eventually thawed around mile 35. We meandered through strawberry fields, which provided an amazing aroma, and through the sand dunes overlooking Monterey.
We’re at camp now, drying out our gear and getting ready for a fun night.
My legs feel great 🙂
Day 3: Big Sur
We woke to heavy mist, everything soaked. But not that cold!
I had followed a tip from a fellow rider of putting your riding gear in the sleeping bag with you to keep it dry for the morning. Unbeknownst to me my gear was not ‘matching’ Marc’s so I had to switch. Oh well, it is 9/11 and we all made an effort to sport red and white… Note my socks!
We left Monterey shrouded in fog and rolled through Pebble Beach golf courses taking too many photos. The wildlife (deer and rabbits) was stunning, the views epic and the sea air smelled fresh.
As we cruised through Carmel the sun finally showed its face. We then climbed towards Big Sur and finally let our legs stretch as we wound ourselves along the coastline at a good pace.
River Bend is a must stop at mile 46 of 48, according to the veteran riders, and so we did. It’s a tranquil river bend where you can enjoy your beer with your feet dipped in the cool water.
We’re at the camp ground now, setting up for the night, and thinking about Livia, who we rode for today.
Livia Telli, age 4, has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.
Day 4: San Simeon
Last night we got a break, the sky was clear and the stars were amazing. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Big Sur lodge and tucked in for the night at 8.
We woke to clear skies and dry tents: woohooo!
The first turn out of the camp ground sends you up a 600 foot climb to get things going. A lot of overtaking as I let my legs start the 68 miles in full swing.
The views as we cruised along the coast are nothing short of epic. When you’re on a bike you get to see, stop, smell (anise) and share the majestic moments as they unfold. It’s breathtaking. So many miles of untouched coastline. We had 2 big climbs, although I crested the first and had to ask some poor chap doubled over in pain if that was ‘one’ of the hills- it made his day! Classic!
After the climbs we hit the checkpoint where ABBA was blaring, oh this is my kind of trip. We ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and started off for the rolling 19 miles back to camp. Something snapped and I dropped my head into race position and rode faster than I probably should have, pushing all the limits. 20, 30, 40mph+ in some sections. Before I knew it the infamous Polynesian Pu horn sounded as I completed the stage and I had to reach for the brakes and call it a day. Wow, 68 miles, 5,500 feet of climbing, and a grin from ear to ear.
Tonight is wine tasting night at our San Simeon campground. Our tents are pitched, we’re showered and enjoying the ocean views.
Today we rode for Macy Coad, age 5, with Oligo-Articular Juvenile Arthritis and Uveitis. Macy is why we ride.
Day 5: Pismo Beach
Wine tasting last night was a perfect respite from our camping lifestyle. We were momentarily transported to a sophisticated gathering of cheerful characters donning real stemware. Plenty of wine from Lone Madrone, a great dinner and another early night. Ear plugs inserted by 8:30pm after a long day in the saddle results in the deepest sleep.
Using a porta-potty first thing for a number 2 in the dark is not pleasant, charity, charity, I can do this. It’s so important to have everything cleaned before a big day in the saddle too!
Breakfast was great, I’m loving my Starbucks VIA shots in my personal Vespa mug.
We hit the road early and settled into a steady pace for our 58-mile day, meandering our way along the coastline. The marine layer would not back down, and so once again we were cold. Seeing the midway checkpoint, cheering ladies, cowbells ringing and all the energy goodies you could imagine picked us up.
However, we decided to press on in search of sunshine and a minor detour to Marc’s Eureka! Burger restaurant in San Louis Obispo. 3 IPA’s, and a gourmet fig, marmalade & bacon burger provided me my first lunch in 5 days!
You’d think after lunch and the brewskis I might be fatigued. Not me! Turn it up, attack! We joined up with the pedal pushers and cut the wind like a freight train along the coastline into Pismo.
We’re setup, having beers and sharing stories from the day.
Today we rode for a rider who had a crash 5 days before we started. Laef, age 74, had been training heavily for the event and bonked (exhaustion) in his final training ride. Laef had been in critical condition and so his son Josh came to ride in his place on his fathers bike. Laef passed away last night. RIP #201, today was your day.
You are my family and friends, thank you for supporting me and this cause.
Day 6: Buellton
Today was the day. We left camp as Josh, Marc, Claudia, Jim, Robert and me. It was a little cold, but we knew 90 degrees was around the corner so no worries.
We cruised through farm country, with every farmhand cheering us on. Josh and I broke away from the pack and settled into a nice 25mph for 20 miles. Neither of us ride road (I mountain bike), so for the most part it was plain brute force that pushed us through the winding back roads. There was not one pedal stroke in there that was not for his father Laef. Josh is a wonderful person, and I’d pedal for his loss any day.
When the temperatures hit 90, I was in heaven. Sun, wine country, and open roads allowed us to stretch out the legs and feel for a brief moment like this is where we’re meant to be. Seriously, I’m not sure if the speed, stories of children who can’t find a Juvenile Arthritis Doctor, Josh’s loss, or the sheer joy of riding as team made me cry, but cry I did.
We cruised into Los Olivos, a picturesque wine country village. A local IPA (or 2), chicken salad sandwich and I was ready to tackle the “advanced climbing detour”. After a big climb, we were faced with 5 miles of a gradual decline. (I’m a downhiller). Race on, Claudia and Israel gave challenge, but inexperience prevailed. I’m not convinced it was wise to push that hard, but this is the day, this is the ride.
CompletePT Team showed up in full force tonight and provided PT for the weary. Kristy Laing, DPT, Mike Blair, MSPT, and Lindsay Fujinaka, DPT offered desperately needed advice, recommendations and moral support to the riders. Yes, I was the first customer.
150 new riders arrive tonight. This is going to get serious.
Day 7: Ventura
For most, today was the hardest day. 90 miles of hot weather riding from Santa Barbara to Ventura. 20 miles of 101 riding, which is very dangerous. The cops were there to protect us and even closed down a lane on a narrow bridge. Nonetheless, it was hairy, and hot!
We all had to leave early to complete the designated check points in a timely fashion. Claudia, Marc, Robert, Jim and I departed in the damp cold wee hours of the day.
A few mild climbs later and we were immersed in horse farms, quiet roads and a relentless sun.
Eventually we hit the 101, and that’s where our day hit a few bumps. The shoulder is littered with rubber, glass and shards of who knows what. Robert blew a tire. We fixed it up in the blazing heat, but within 30 minutes it blew again. No spare tube as Robert is running some fancy carbon rims. After waiting a while the support vehicle came by and gave us a tube. That tube lasted 30 minutes before it gave out! 3 flats in 90 degree heat. Robert got it all squared away at the next rest stop, in Santa Barbara.
Eureka! Burger just opened their latest joint in SB, so 15 of us cruised over for a gourmet burger and beer. SB is 30 miles shy of camp, so we came out of there ready to roll. Well, at least I did. I went into a tuck and stretched the legs one more time. I rolled up on Israel; luckily he was not looking to race and let me breeze on by. Without stopping I made it to camp, and for the last time setup my tent.
It’s going to be sad to say goodbye tomorrow to all the new friends I’ve made.
Day 8: Santa Monica
We woke to a clear sky and a beautiful sunrise. Group photos were taken and then 250 of us started our 60 mile victory ride into Santa Monica.
The heat bore down on us, but we had a good speed going, keeping us cool.
The coast had a different day in order for us. As we came around Point Magu we were faced with a solid wall of dense fog, and his mean brother, the 30 mph headwind. Luckily my small frame was able to hunker down and drive through it. Midway through I rolled up on Josh, and together we destroyed the coast’s best efforts to push us back to San Francisco.
Back in the sun, feeling strong, and then Israel was in my sights. We rode together for a while, finally getting to race up the PCH rolling hills. Lovely.
The challenges kept on coming as we approached the finish. Any stored energy was being spent today. We raced all the way to Gladstone’s. An IPA later and it truly was a victory ride back to home camp.
Thanks for all the support, this has been an amazing journey.
I was out of town during most of the ride, but kept up with James’ progress with his tweets each day. I got home just in time to jump in with the riders at the final staging area on Ocean Ave. and San Vicente Blvd. in Santa Monica. I was totally “WOW’d” by the people and their stories of riding down from San Francisco. We all rode to the finish line and closing ceremonies at the Yahoo! Center in Santa Monica where both Dr. Klapper, the Medical Honoree, and I gave brief talks.
Lynda Huey, M.S., founder of CompletePT and Huey’s Athletic Network, is a former athlete and coach whose own injuries led her into the water to find fitness and healing. She was educated at San Jose State University where she starred on the track and field team during its golden years. Lynda is the author of four books on water exercise and water rehabilitation.